On Discovering Self

"Walk in Peace... Learn from Nature... Find Yourself...

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Bushcraft Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend

   It is hard to believe that November is nearly over. We have yet to receive any significant snowfall here in south central Minnesota. Yet, the wind and the colder temperatures feel like the promise of snow. I have busied myself with getting my warmer bushcraft clothing out of storage and started to improve on some of my options. This year, there is a lot more wool in the mix.
   I have managed to score a couple pair of wool pants off of evil-bay, one is an army issue (olive drab of course) and the second pair are some vintage Woolrich heavy wool hunting pants. They can be used with or without suspenders, but I chose the suspender route, so that I can get a good exchange of air and moisture from the heat generated by the major muscles in my legs. It is also important not to restrict blood flow thru to your femoral arteries, as this is the major source of warming blood that arrives at your feet. A tight fitting belt to keep your pants up can restrict this blood flow, thus the suspenders.
   I have also gotten an army issue wool shirt in an 80% wool 20% nylon blend. That shirt is a great piece of gear and makes an excellent second layer over my base layer of moisture wicking "Under Armor." Topping this all off, I have a 100% wool pull over Woolrich sweater, that has a good thick weave and will be great for those days when it is just around freezing and I am by the fire.
   Thanksgiving day, turned out to be a great day for getting out for some adventure and my girlfriend and I headed out for a good hike after turkey dinner. We visited a new campsite area that I hope to feature in an up coming blog post. I am pretty excited about the opportunity to use this piece of woodland. Stay tune for more on this latest development.
   On the Saturday following Thanksgiving, I had even more bushcraft adventure as I was able to meet up with a good group of Minnesota BushcraftUSA members for our usual Saturday morning meetup and daytrip. We worked on BushclassUSA lessons and looked at some alcohol stoves and gear and had a great time getting to know each other.
   Here is a video of that great meetup and all that we did. It is a little long, around 25 minutes, but I think it is entertaining and shows a lot of the activity a group of friends can have when it comes to sharing bushcraft.

   As you can see, we braved the cold, enjoyed the weather and did it all with Minnesotan enthusiasm. We do enjoy our great Minnesota outdoors, no matter what the time of year. It is all in how you prepare.
   I hope to cover more of how I prepare for winter and to let you know what gear is working for me and for others. For now, all I can say is that wool has become my friend. Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New Friend Learns About Old Fire Making Method

   It was the regular Saturday morning meet-up and my friend Sticker and I waited the usual thirty odd minutes for any other members to show up. But to no avail, no one else did. We decided to head down to the river and we were already thinking about the next Bushclass lesson that he was going to work on. That was the "Student Practice for Making a Pot Hook" lesson. This was going to be fun.
   The weather was nearly perfect and we were both joking about how, as we walked thru the woods, we were looking for resources. Soon he had a good piece of birch bark from an old dead fall, which in the end we never did use. He told me how it is with him now, when he comes out of the woods, his pockets are full of natural tinders and things to try for fire starting. I could not help but smile. I do the same thing.
   Today, his partner in life, member "Callmekris",  had decided to sleep in or at least to take it easy and get some more rest after working a late shift and I could not help but start to wonder how we could now make her jealous of our trip and leave her wishing she had come along. Sticker said she likes "playing with fire" and that was the perfect queue for me to suggest that he get the fire going with my flint and steel and some of the charred cloth from our last adventure. I also mentioned that I would get it on video, so he could show her later. I think we had hatched the perfect plan. Smiles all around.
   So here is the the video of our latest adventure and it covers our fire prep, his flint and steel work and the pot hook lesson. I also tried an experiment with charring some natural tinder. You can see how that turned out. I hope you enjoy watching.

   We definitely had a great time and in the end, Sticker had a good piece of video to submit for his lesson and we were able to make Callmekris quite jealous. He told me later that she said she was "definitely going to go next time" I guess that means mission accomplished.
   I am hoping to that given enough time, even more members will begin to wish that they too had joined in on the adventure. There really is so much to do and so many things to learn together, no matter what the situation is like. The BushclassUSA lessons make it easy to share the experience.
   I am hoping one day to have a video of several members all working on various lessons and skills, to essentially showcase what we are accomplishing here in Minnesota and that the members here are getting out and doing it. Until next time, Happy Exploring. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part III

   So it was about this time, the husband started to ask about knives and wanted to know what a good brand was and he also wanted to know about "flint and steel." I suspected he meant "ferro rod" or "firesteel" so I proceeded to make up some tinder from some jute twine I had and explained a little about what knife brands I was familiar with and why I prefer a fixed blade.Then I brought out my ferro rod on the lanyard and my trusty SAK Farmer. In no time at all, I had that nest of jute twine burning in flame. It was impressive and everyone was amazed.
   Well at least they had seen one modern way of making fire, the old reliable, "Don't Leave Home Without It", works in the rain, throws molten metal and sparks to 5500° F, takes a licking and keeps on ticking Ferro-Rod!! But now I had to focus on getting fire the really old fashion way, by rubbing two sticks together.
   As it turned out, I got a very excellent ember on the second try. And as everyone looked on, it cherried up nicely and would be an easy start from there. By this time, I had made a second bundle nest of jute twine and carefully transferred the ember to blow it to flame. It worked perfectly, to everyone's amazement. I felt pretty good. I had the chance to share something fun and unusual with some perfect strangers and it did not matter where we had come from, or who we were. We had all felt the kinship with the past, of the discovery of fire in a primitive way. It felt a lot more satisfying than using the ferro-rod that's for sure.
   After the young man got the video he needed, I shared the fact that I have a YouTube channel and invited them to visit the site and this blog to see and read more about bushcraft and some of my adventures. I spoke to them about BushcraftUSA and about the membership and the Bushclass lessons. I hope they look it up. I hope I hear from them again or maybe see and visit with them and get the chance to share some other things about bushcraft that I love.
   Soon the husband and wife couple and I said our good-byes to the young men and started out on our hike again. I promised to bring them up to the top of the ridge and show them a large rock on the ridge line, that works as a nice look out and a place to stop and have a lunch. Once we arrived there, I showed them yet another bow and drill set that I had left behind. She asked me if I do that a lot. I smiled and said, "Yes, I try to leave them anyplace someone might find them and wonder what they are for and how to use them and I hope that they will take them home if they want."  I think she may just go back to the Sakatah Trail Eagle Lake bridge sometime to take home what she missed.
   We walked the ridge line over to the campground and thru it all the way to a park bench that overlooks a scenic area and bend in the river. We sat and chatted for awhile and I started to show them things in my kit and why I have them. Then it occurred to me that they had not see yet the use of flint and steel. If I showed them that, they would have a larger understanding of the methods of making fire down thru the ages.
   So I opened up my tinder kit and got out some charred cloth, some flint and my trusty steel striker. In no time I had a spark and the charred cloth caught the jute tinder to flame almost instantly. Again, they were impressed.
   I finished up the show and tell and we headed back towards the vehicles. It had been now about 4 hours and I was just then getting around to introducing myself. I found out their names were George and Terry and they had been in and around Mankato over the years and were re-visiting some sites they had not been to in awhile.
   As we arrived back at the vehicles, we said our good-byes and they thanked me for all the fun that they had. I did have a good time. It was a good day. I wished them well, and it is my hope to meet with them again, so that I can share the adventure that is bushcraft.
   Even if I did not get the chance to practice bushcraft with my usual suspects, I did get to practice it with strangers and maybe they will remember me and want to learn for themselves more about that wonderful thing we can Bushcraft.  Happy Exploring.

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part II

   Now normally I am pretty cautious and on this day, even more so, since I was already in the company of two people I just met. At this point I did not even know their names. And now we were about to go into an even more unknown situation. Looked like a time to be real friendly.
   As the three of us approached the three young men, I noticed right away that they all had commercially made blow dart guns leaning against the trees. One of the guys was wearing OD green and muted natural colors and the other two wore blue jeans and a mix of "hunting" type garments, but not a lot of camo.
   I asked right away if they were "bushcrafters" and if they were out just practicing skills. They said almost in unison that they were not really bushcrafters, but were out for the morning to cook up a couple pounds of bacon and to maybe try to bring down some small game with their blow dart guns and to use their small game licenses. They wanted to kill some small game, dress it and prepare it for a meal right in the field. One of the guys said that he had seen almost every survival show on television and that he and his wife and family were thinking of moving to Alaska to try homesteading. He had watched a lot of Yukon Men on the Discovery channel along with Alaskan Frontier and all the Dual Survival shows.
   After a few interesting moments of getting acquainted, they asked if we would like to see a demonstration of their blow gun prowess. We said sure and one of the guys succeeded in putting several darts in a small group about 10 yards away. I was impressed. I could see why they wanted to see if they could bring down some small game. They mentioned that most of the small game they saw so far, seemed to scatter anytime they tried to move up on it. They would continue to practice.
   They had a pretty good fire going by now and the fry pan was on. They started on the first pound of bacon and invited us to have a few other breakfast treat items. They seemed like pretty good fellows and were family guys and were out to just have an adventure. I could not fault them for that, though I did inform them that they were still on state park property and would have to get a lot closer to the river for that to change.
   Of course, once the subject of survival TV shows and the like came up, I steered the conversation towards bushcraft. Since they had a fire going, we naturally got onto the subject of methods of making fire. I offered to demonstrate the use of the bow drill to start a fire by friction and quickly set to working finding the pieces I needed near by. It wasn't long and I had a spindle carved and a hearth board made and was starting to hunt for what I would need for a bow. Soon I had all the pieces together and set to work making the first burn in divot.
   One of the young men was very interested in the process and asked if he could take some video with his phone for reference later. I said I didn't mind and started to explain the process a little more for the camera.
   Well the burn-in revealed what I suspected was going wrong and that was that I was not getting any good black dust, but rather a brown and cooler dust then I had anticipated. I suspected some moisture, but went ahead and cut my notch and tried again to coax an ember out of the spindle and hearth board I had made.
   Failure. Sometimes that happens. It started to smoke, but would not cherry up. I could tell from the squeaking sound it made as I spun it up, that the hearth board was just a little moist. But the spindle looked good, so I would have to try a different hearth board. I found one, carved it up nice with my knife and set work. But now the pressure was on, and all eyes were watching. Could I really get this to work? Will the hearth board be dry enough this time? Will I succeed in even getting the tinder to work, after I get a coal?

   Read more about this adventure with strangers in Part III... Happy Exploring.

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part I

   So it was, a Saturday. November 10th, to be exact and as I rolled out of bed, I readied myself for a regular meetup of BushcraftUSA Minnesota members at 9am at the local state park. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know the details of my trying to get something going with these members on a regular basis, to practice skills, complete some BushclassUSA Basic lessons and to get out and explore and have some fun.
   I usual do not know what to expect when I arrive at the meeting point, though I always have high hopes of finding someone there. It has been getting better as of late. A new acquaintance, member "Sticker", has shown some real interest in making it a regular thing for himself and his wife, "Callmekris." I have also been surprised when "Steene" and his son, "CamperTater" show up, and this has been more often than I thought they would.
   But on this last Saturday, no one showed. I busied myself for a little bit, getting my kit ready and then strolled over to talk to the park ranger, who had showed up to check on the group campsites and the outhouse facilities and such.
   The ranger and I have spoken before and today I found out his name was Greg. Greg and I spoke about the park, some of the wildlife and my reasons for being there. I told him about the regular meet up of bushcraft enthusiasts and how we try to get together to practice skills. He remembered seeing me working on doing a friction fire one time and seemed very interested in the various activities. I told him about BushcraftUSA and its membership and how it was growing and how we had a growing number of Minnesota members as well.
   Just as we were about to part company, a husband and wife drove into the parking lot and began to ready themselves for a hike. They wanted to know how to get down to the river trail. They had been there a long time previous and wanted to hike the trails. I offered to take them for a "tour." We parted company with the ranger and headed out.
   As we hiked along, I showed them the lookout area, to view the valley below and the Minneopa Creek. We talked about the trees and how to identify them and what types there were high on the ridge as we hiked down to the valley. Soon the Red Oaks, Paper Birch, Eastern Red Cedar and Ash gave way to the Elm, Black Walnut, Cottonwood and Basswood of the valley floor, near the creek.
   I shared with them my interest in bushcraft and my reasons for coming to the woods. I shared how the trees have many resources for bushcraft. I mentioned the use of the cottonwood tree to make friction fire with a bow drill set and how I liked to practice with friction fire methods.
   It was then, that the woman shared something amazing. She said that she and her husband had been on a hike on the Sakatah Trail, out to the Eagle Lake bridge. As they were sitting around the picnic table near the bridge, she had found a hearth board and a spindle and a bow laying by a tree. She saw that it had been used to make a friction fire, as it had a burn in divot and notch. She said she was tempted to take it with her as it was a very interesting find and looked primitive and "artistic."
   It was at that point that I revealed to her that the bow drill set that she had found was mine. That I had made it out of some willow found on site and that I had used it to make a friction fire. We were both amazed at the coincidence. What are the odds of two separate individuals finding such a connection, thru bushcraft.
   We continued to hike closer to the river, when the husband and I noticed the smell of smoke. It was then, that I noticed a group of three young men, in their 30's, working around a campfire at trying to prepare some breakfast. The three of us decided to stop and say hello.
   Then it got interesting.
   Read more in part II....  Happy Exploring.


Monday, November 5, 2012

On Learning Bushcraft By Doing Bushcraft

   So on Saturday, November 3rd, at the beginning of firearms deer hunting opener here in Minnesota, I met up with my new bushcrafting friend, Sticker, for a few hours of skills practice and some plain old fun just getting out there and exploring. He was wearing his blaze orange cap and I was well, regretting I had forgotten my blaze orange vest. Anyway, Sticker wanted to get another BushclassUSA lesson out of the way and I thought that tackling the "Student Practice for Five Man Made Tinders" would be a good one to try.
   When we first met up at 9 o'clock, he found me working at trying to get a bow drill fire out of some grapevine wood I had harvested for a hearth board. I tried using at first an oak spindle, but found that it was just to hard and drilled thru the grapevine with lots of "shredded" and "stringy" dust. No matter how I tried to finesse it, I could not sustain a ember.
   I then swapped for yet another spindle made of basswood, but still could not get a sustained ember. I so wanted to keep trying different woods, but it was time to get out on our hike and get on to other things.
   Here is a video of our day trip, with Sticker getting his Five Man Made Tinders lit and both of us heating some water and making some charred cloth and charred punk wood.

   On our way back to the vehicles, we searched the Minneopa Creek bed for pieces of chert to use with an improvised steel. Sticker and I tested a few, but found nothing really large enough. I gave him a piece of an old file I had started on, so he has something to use when he gets the chance to search on his own.
   It was a very good bushcraft adventure and he told me that his wife is working on building her bushcraft kit and looking forward to getting back out there and trying a few more things. I know she is going to love it.
    I hope you enjoyed the video my friends and until next time, Happy Exploring.